It was a long shot for the Washington Wizards to sneak past the Pistons for the final playoff spot, but the Pistons put the final nail in their coffin Friday night. And for the first time since 2009, the Pistons will be going to the playoffs.
For the first 15 minutes of the game, the Pistons were money. On the rare possession where they missed a shot, it was all no big deal, lemme just get this offensive rebound and toss up a three then. Detroit opened the game 9-11 from three and pulled open a 18-point lead early in the second quarter.
From there, they seemed to recall the 43 point thrashing Washington delivered in March. That combined with their pride in earning the team's first playoff berth since 2009, the Pistons cruised to-- NOPE. This team isn't huge on making things easy for themselves.
The Pistons offense slowed down and Jared Dudley was a spark off the bench for Washington to close the first 15+ point gap of the game. Yeah, there were multiple.
Detroit starters were brilliant, particularly as efficient scorers on the offensive end. Reggie Jackson was an absolute star, Tobias Harris was a nightmare to defend, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris were nice contributors.
There was one starter who doesn't deserve to be lumped in with that mix though. Andre Drummond. Dre was a complete non-factor. Not on the offensive end, the defensive end, or on the boards. He opened the game flinging up a bunch of bad hook shots and getting frustrated. He was unplayable down the stretch thanks to Hack-A-Dre, tossing up free throws that were a liability to the front row spectators.
In a game that could clinch the playoffs, after averaging 30 wins over his first three seasons, the only word I have for his game is pathetic. I hate to torch Drummond on a night we should be celebrating getting back to the playoffs, but it is what it is.
And it's unfortunate, just because of what a tremendous talent Drummond represents. It was one of just 14 games this season Dre hasn't tallied a double-double. And he flashed how important he is to this team during their run in the third quarter.
Jackson found Drummond for an alley oop off the pick and roll, then Dre flushed a Jackson miss a few possessions later. With those plays Drummond was more engaged defensively, shutting down the Bradley Beal-Marcin Gortat pick and roll emphatically.
The Pistons leveraged it into another 15 point lead. But that foreshadowing...
Markieff Morris scored 20 third quarter points, 17 of them in the final 5:10. The Pistons only scored 8 points during that stretch. That'll close a gap pretty quickly.
Steve Blake nailed a three-point shot with .9 seconds remaining to head into the fourth quarter, giving the Pistons a five point gap. But that was enough time for Markieff to hit a three-quarter court shot to close it back to two. George Blaha simply quoted the great Jerry Reed to say, "When you're hot, you're hot."
The Pistons kept in front for most of the fourth, but were unable to pull away. Detroit was up four, so it wasn't necessarily a save situation, but Jackson played the closer anyway.
Reggie got to the rim for the layup and foul, then nailed a huge three on the next possession. Another stop for the Pistons, and Reggie found Aron Baynes deep to get him a trip to the line to seal the deal.
Jackson's final line was 39 points on 14-20 shooting, including 4-5 from three and 7-7 from the line, along with 9 assists 4 rebounds.
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